Impact of London Met trouble on international student mobility

London Met is now the poster-child of how frequently changing immigration policies coupled with institutional desperation for recruiting foreign students for revenue rationales could hurt future of many. Student are disillusioned and frustrated, London Met has lost its reputation and the UK has put at risk its credibility to attract international students in the immediate term. After tightening of student visa norms and requirement of interviews for international students, London Met fiasco is too detrimental for the UK higher education.

This in turn is going to financially hurt London Met and the UK higher education. “In 2010-11, English universities increased their income from overseas student tuition fees by 16 per cent to £2.5 billion. Fees paid by overseas students made up 10.9 per cent of the sector’s income, ‘the highest on record‘, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.  The loss of its licence will likely cause great financial pain for London Met. In 2010-11, some 15 per cent of its £157.8 million income came from foreign student fees.”

At the same time, there is no doubt that visa system had been abused and a nexus of some institutions-agents have worked to make some international students find way in the country by using education as a pathway to immigration. Late last year, 450 private colleges, which recruited nearly 11,000 international students were banned from recruiting international students due to  failure to meet immigration standards.

Even in the case of London Met “The UKBA found ‘serious and systemic failures’ in systems to weed out fraudulent applications by those trying to get around immigration rules and enter the U.K. on student visas”, according to the Wall Street Journal. Here is BBC analysis on why London Met University been banned from recruiting non-EU foreign students?

A study by World Education Services, noted that “Strugglers” are more likely to be academically under-prepared and lack financial resources. This is also the segment which uses external support of third-party agents to as they need help in navigating the application process and in making their aspiration to immigrate at any cost. Here is my earlier post “Degrees at Any Cost” and “Are Student Recruitment Agents Creating More Dickinson Universities?

In the case of London Met, recruitment agents have “washed off hands”, according to Times of India. London Met had a representative office in India which was closed in July and it had been working with a network of agents. Of course, now no one wants to take ownership and blame others for deficiencies.

In the immediate short term, student mobility traffic from the UK will redirect to Australia, US and Canada. This will help Australia to gain back some of the the loss in last couple of years due to safety and immigration issues, while US will gain numbers at the master’s level programs driven by more aggressive outreach by institutions and Canada will attract more students with immigration intent.

While the UK is expected to start recovering in a couple of years, London Met case has impacted many–directly and indirectly. It is a lesson for international higher education professional that not knowing student segments and delegating recruiting to third party-agents at the cost of rigorous standards can have serious implications of the future of your institution.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha